On the definition of noise

Humanit Soc Sci Commun. 2022;9(1):406. doi: 10.1057/s41599-022-01431-x. Epub 2022 Nov 8.


Urbanization has exposed people to extreme sound levels. Although researchers have investigated the ability of people to listen, analyze, and distinguish sound, the concept of noise has not been clearly articulated from a human perspective. The lack of knowledge on how people perceive noise limits our capacity to control it in a targeted manner. This study aimed to interpret the definition of noise from the public perspective based on a grounded theory approach. Seventy-eight participants were interviewed about noise, and four categories of perceived understanding of noise were identified: challenges, definitions of noise, opportunities, and action. As one of the challenges, urbanization is associated with increased noise levels around the human environment. In terms of definition, perceiving sound as noise is considered to be a result of the complex and dynamic process that includes sound, the environment, and humans. Sound and humans interact with the environment. In terms of opportunities, noise may have positive roles on certain occasions, dispelling the misconception that noise is exclusively negative. In addition, we found that noise perception has gradually shifted from noise control to noise utilization. In terms of action, noise can be controlled at the sound sources, susceptible target groups, susceptible behaviors and states, locations, and times where noise is perceived with high frequency. In this study, we investigated several aspects of noise, ranging from noise control, soundscape definition, and 'soundscape indices' (SSID) integration and application. Our findings provide an additional basis for developing better definitions, control, and utilization strategies of noise in the future, thereby improving the quality of the sound environment.

Keywords: Environmental studies; Science, technology and society.